Cost to Build, Home Prices & Unemployment in Sacramento & Placer County

My Realtor friend Jenifer Miller invited me yesterday to give a 90-minute talk to a group of new real estate agents at Lyon Real Estate in Elk Grove. It was fun and I hope overall helpful too as we discussed how to more effectively communicate with appraisers in an HVCC world as well as a few tidbits on FHA minimum requirements.

Anyway, one of the members of the class brought up a great question. He asked how properties could not be worth at least their replacement cost. The truth is that we see so many properties in the Sacramento area selling far below what they would actually cost to build from scratch (cost of land + all improvements). 

That’s the nature of the market these days. But why is that? There are many factors to consider. Do you remember the real estate bubble? It couldn’t have lasted forever. Property values really climbed too quickly to enormously high levels, didn’t they? When the bubble burst, it changed the real estate market. There ended up being a huge oversupply of distressed properties listed on the open market, and these REOs set the pace for the rest of the market. Keep in mind too everything that was going on in Wall Street, the bailouts, and the economy beginning to sincerely struggle. All of these factors (and more) influenced property values.

Moreover, check out unemployment figures to the right for both Sacramento County & Placer County. These April 2010 stats from the Employment Development Department show an unemployment rate of 12.5% in Sacramento County and 11.5% in Placer County. Let’s contrast this with data from April 2006 that shows the unemployment rate was 4.8% in Sacramento County and 4.3% in Placer County. Things changed, didn’t they? In light of unemployment rates being significantly higher nowadays, do you think buyers could really afford to purchase houses right now at 2006 levels?  

What do you think? I’d love to hear your insight.


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